Windows 11 version 22H2: Everything you need to know about Microsoft’s next big operating system update

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What do you want to know

  • Windows 11 version 22H2 is Microsoft’s next major operating system update in the second half of this year.
  • It focuses on continued polish, operating system productivity improvements, and enhancements for tablet users.
  • Version 22H2 will be delivered as a free update for all Windows 11 users.

Microsoft is currently hard at work on the next major release of Windows, which will also serve as the first major feature update to the Windows 11 operating system. Currently known as “Build 22H2” and named “Sun Valley 2”, This next release is intended to continue the vision that was first introduced with Windows 11 last year, with the continuation of new features, user interface improvements and much more.

Development on the 22H2 build began shortly before Windows 11 was finalized, and it’s currently being tested with participants of Microsoft’s Windows Insider program, which sees frequent “active development” builds delivered to the beta channel. with new features that we believe will ship as part of the 22H2 release.

Version 22H2 will be available this fall as a free update for all Windows 11 users. We will continue to update this post as new features are revealed. Be sure to check out our roundup of the best Windows 11 PCs in the meantime.

Version 22H2: what’s new? (so far)

Here is the TL:DR:

  • Application Folders in the Start Menu
  • Resizable pinned area in start menu
  • Drag and drop to taskbar
  • Integration of Focus Assist with Notification Center
  • New “spotlight” wallpaper feature
  • New Voice Access accessibility feature
  • New Live Caption Accessibility Feature
  • New gestures and animations for touch users
  • New pop-up layout bar when moving application windows
  • New Task Manager app
  • New “Suggested Actions” feature when copying dates/numbers
  • Tabs in File Explorer
  • Better OneDrive integration with File Explorer
  • Many UI improvements and consistency updates

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a brief overview of the most notable changes and improvements that are expected to ship as part of 22H2. Keep reading for a more in-depth breakdown of the new features. Of course, there are also hundreds, if not thousands, of under-the-hood fixes and improvements that Microsoft is pushing into the next release that we haven’t detailed.

Version 22H2: Availability

Microsoft has yet to announce an official release date for Windows 11 version 22H2, but I’ve heard from my own contacts that the currently planned general availability date is set for September 20. That date could still change, but that’s what I’ve been told Microsoft is aiming for right now. The launch build of build 22H2 will ship as build 22621.

Also, I hear the company plans to roll out its first “momentary” update for 22H2 before the end of this year, which will add a handful of additional features that weren’t finalized in time for the launch version, such as tabs in File Explorer and suggested actions. This is what Microsoft is currently testing with Windows Insiders running build 22622.

As always, until these plans are officially announced, the dates mentioned here could slip. But that’s the current plan.

Version 22H2: New features

Here’s a more in-depth look at some of the new features in 22H2. Keep in mind that some of the features mentioned here will start rolling out to users shortly after the 22H2 release as part of its first “snapshot” update.

Windows Shell

Start Windows 11 Application Folder

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Windows shell is very popular with the 22H2 version. Microsoft continues to clean up the UI by updating legacy interfaces with more modern and consistent Windows 11 designs. For example, the 22H2 version introduces modern designs for things like the volume and brightness interfaces that appear when adjusting these controls via physical hardware buttons. Focus Assist (now called Do Not Disturb) has been integrated into Notification Center for easy access to this feature.

In the Start menu, Microsoft has added several features present in the Windows 10 Start menu, including the ability to create application folders and adjust the size of the pinned applications area. Now users can choose to have an additional row of pinned apps or reduce the pinned apps area to two rows in favor of a larger “recommended” area.

The taskbar has also been updated with the return of drag-and-drop support, meaning you can drag files into app icons on your taskbar to paste that file there. It’s been a taskbar feature for years, but was missing in the first version of Windows 11. Good to see it’s finally back with version 22H2.

There’s also a new feature called “Suggested Actions” which will present a small menu of options whenever you copy a date or phone number. These options will offer quick ways to create a calendar event or add a phone number to your contact list.

Users will notice a new Snap Layouts menu that drops down from the top of the screen whenever they move through an application window. This provides an easier way to launch Windows snapping in addition to the drop-down menu that appears when you hover over an application window’s maximize button.

Wip 3 Finger Downup Minimizerrestore

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

For those who use a tablet, Microsoft is introducing several important new changes designed to improve the touch user experience on Windows 11. There are new gestures for touch users that allow easy access to common areas of the Windows Shell. Users can now swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the Start menu, and swipe up from the right corner to access Quick Settings.

A three-finger swipe in the middle of the screen will minimize your apps, and a three-finger swipe left or right will switch between running apps. All of these animations are also fluid, meaning they stick to your finger as they run, thus feeling much more responsive.

Settings

Windows 11 Msa Settings

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

As is the case with every new version of Windows, Microsoft has added several new settings pages to the Settings app with 22H2. There’s a new Microsoft account page in the Accounts area, providing an overview of your Microsoft 365 subscription, with quick access to other settings and online services. There’s also a new Family Safety page in the same area, designed to provide quick access to all of the Family Safety options if you use this service.

Windows Update can now time itself with your local power grid to help reduce emissions. Instead of installing updates when they are available, Windows Update will attempt to time downloads and installations with your power grid to use as much renewable energy as possible.

Other new settings include the ability to adjust the number of pinned or featured rows you see in Start, the ability to set the daily Bing image as your wallpaper, the ability to disable the sidebar overflow menu system status, etc.

apps

Win11 Tabs Dark File Explorer

(Image credit: future)

Microsoft has updated a number of apps and in-app experiences with version 22H2. Starting with File Explorer, which now features a new tabbed interface that runs on top of the app. Much like a web browser, you can now open multiple File Explorer directories under a single window, which should help keep your desktop tidy.

There’s also an updated sidebar navigation UI that better groups various shortcuts to common areas of the file system, such as user folders or OneDrive. Microsoft has also updated the Nearby Sharing feature, which will now show other devices on a private network in addition to devices within Bluetooth range. Additionally, you can share local files directly to OneDrive using the File Sharing UI.

File Explorer also has a new “pinned files” section in the quick access area when you open the app. Users can pin all files in this area and store them permanently for quick access at a later date. File Explorer now has more OneDrive integration, with a new drop-down menu that appears right inside a OneDrive that shows you how much cloud storage you’re using.

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Task Manager has been updated with a new interface that brings it more in line with the rest of Windows 11. It has a new sidebar navigation UI that automatically shrinks when you reduce the size of the window. There is also a new Sound Recorder app which has new output options, an audio visualizer, and a much better user interface.

Two new apps called Clipchamp and Family Safety are preloaded with the 22H2 version. Family Safety is a web-based application that gives you quick access to your family overview, including your children’s locations, upcoming activities in your shared family calendar, and other tools to manage your household. This service is ideal for families using Windows and Xbox PCs, or Android devices with the Microsoft Launcher and Family Safety app installed.

Clipchamp is a new web-based video editor also coming with Windows 11 in the future. The app is free, although there are paid monthly tiers that you can subscribe to if you want access to more effects and rendering options.

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